This research involved extensive investigation into pesticide problems in the Gaza Strip. The questionnaire analysis demonstrated the severe problems that farmers have in dealing with pesticides, which have dangerous health and environmental impacts.
More than 900 metric tons of formulated pesticides are used annually in the Gaza Strip, mainly organochloronated, organophosphated, carbamates and pyrethroids. Most of the pesticides are manufactured in Israel and the others are imported into Israel from companies in the West. Nevertheless, approximately sixteen of the dangerous agricultural pesticides that are restricted, cancelled or banned in most developed countries, including Israel, are allowed to enter the Gaza Strip and are still widely used. Moreover, methyl bromide, which is regarded as one of the most dangerous fumigants, is applied directly to the soil and its average use is about 505.5 ton / year, which is about 54% of total pesticide usage in the Gaza Strip.
Due to lack of awareness, farmers engage in dangerous practices, as described below:
- Farmers do not wear protective clothing while spraying because of the high cost of such clothing;
- Farmers mix pesticides with their hands without taking any precautions or wearing any gloves;
- Some farmers use old spraying equipment because they cannot afford to replace it;
- Very often, farmers use the wrong pesticides or unsuitable pesticides at the wrong time;
- Farmers eat, drink and smoke while handling and applying pesticides.
- Some farmers mix together several pesticides hoping to produce a stronger and more effective formula.
- Storage and disposal of pesticides are uncontrolled; pesticide containers are not kept in safe places away from children and empty containers are discarded on farmland without proper disposal procedures.
Many detailed diagnostic studies have been made to determine the extent of the groundwater contamination problem where inorganic pollutants have been detected for several cations and anions, but no serious studies have been conducted on the contamination of water by residual pesticides. Results showed contamination of 14 wells by pesticides especially by the organochlorines DDT and Endosulfan. Most of the contaminated wells were in the southern governorships of Rafah and Khan Younis which are characterized by the extensive agriculture areas and heavily use of pesticides.
Before the autonomy agreement in 1994, there was no regulations or controls regarding the importing of pesticides from Israel; all pesticides were labelled in Hebrew, which Arab farmers could not read, leading to many dangerous practices in application, storage and disposal. Since there is no monitoring of the chemical composition of the pesticides containers, sale of expired and impure pesticides is widespread among farmers.
The formulation of relevant laws and regulations to ensure good management of agrochemicals was an important step, however, implementation of those regulations is still rather weak, or does not exist at all. This is due to an absence of equipment and qualified persons and a lack of cooperation among farmers, traders and agricultural officials. Accordingly, there is a serious need for concerted and genuine efforts to implement those regulations in order to control environmental pollution and to protect public health.
21 November 2003